Are there any restrictions, legal or social, on nobility being members of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom?

The section on qualifications mentions that sitting members of the House of Lords can't be elected or vote in elections (and that the Queen can't even enter). Presumably this means that other nobility are able to be elected to the House of Commons. Is this true? If so, is there any social convention against them doing so?

  • 4
    I wish I could have worked Lord Buckethead into this question, but I suspect he isn't really nobility.
    – Golden Cuy
    Jun 11, 2017 at 7:56
  • Alec Douglas-Home was Lord Home prior to giving up his peerage so as to be able to run for election in the House of Commons. Not sure if that answers your question, although it is an interesting factoid.
    – Brythan
    Jun 11, 2017 at 18:33
  • @Brythan it doesn't answer the question because the question concerns members of the nobility who do not sit in the House of Lords. A related factoid: Winston Churchill declined a peerage because accepting it would have required that he leave the House of Commons. The rules have changed since then, however, so hereditary peers no longer have an automatic seat in parliament.
    – phoog
    Jun 12, 2017 at 14:12

3 Answers 3


By "nobility" I take it that you mean the hereditary peers who were disqualified from sitting in the House of Lords by the 1999 House of Lords Act.

These hereditary peers have no special legal status. They can vote and seek election to the House of Commons. Indeed there were (as of 2008) three members of the nobility elected as MPs, John Thurso and Michael Ancram and Douglas Hogg, though all three have since left the Commons. John Thurso and Michael Ancram have been made life peers, and so now can sit in the Lords. John Thurso was the only one of the three to have been a hereditary peer in 1999, and so the only person to have moved from the Lords to the Commons, then back to the Lords.

Prior to the 1999 act, Lords could renounce their nobility in order to stand for election to the Commons. This right was given in 1963, and used by Tony Benn, Quentin Hogg and Alec Douglas-Home to become MPs.

"Lord" Buckethead, and Screamin' Lord Sutch have never been disqualified from running. In both cases "Lord" is part of their nickname.

  • 4
    Worth Noting that neither Lord Buckethead or Screaming Lord Sutch are members of the nobility. Jun 11, 2017 at 10:12
  • Thurso is not a life peer, he won election as an excepted Liberal Democrat hereditary peer. Apr 4, 2019 at 7:38

In addition to the Lords who were qualified to sit in the House of Commons by the 1999 House of Lords Act, the nobility of the Irish Peerage are also, and always have been since the 1801 Act of Union creating the United Kingdom, able to be elected to the Commons, as that Act did not give them the right to sit in the UK House of Lords. The well-known prime minister from the 1800s, Lord Palmerston, would be an example of Irish Nobility who sat in the House of Commons. It should be noted though, that many of these nobles also held titles in the peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain, or the United Kingdom which would have automatically made them members of the House of Lords and therefore ineligible for election to the Commons before 1999.


I think what was asked was “what, if anything, made a ‘Lord’ Inelligible to sit in the House of Commons?” In short, the moment you are a member of the UK House of Lords, you may not sit in the House of Commons. Prior to 1999, if you ‘came into’ your peerage (in other words, were a Lord outright and not merely entitled to the ‘courtesy’ title - as say the son of an Earl was entitled to the courtesy title of ‘Viscount’ before he came into his father’s title upon his death) you immediately became ineligible to be elected to or to sit in the House of Commons. For the Americans, it is somewhat comparable to being prohibited from sitting in both the House if Representatives and the Senate, or perhaps one of the chambers of Congress and the Executive offices.

After the 1999 Act, one was not immediately eligible to sit in the House of Lords upon ‘coming into’ a title as had been the case prior to the Act’s adoption (prior to this the means of ‘wagering’ votes in the Lords was for the Monarch to appoint Life Peers as a means to dilute the numbers of the Hereditary Peers), and as it stands now the only way to become ineligible is to be elected by the Hereditary Peers to sit in the Lords AND to accept such election, to be granted a Life Peerage senior to a Hereditary Peerage already held, or to be given a Life Peerage and to accept it as a commoner. In any event, the moment you sit in the Lords you may NOT sit in the Commons.

How’s that for an American Academic?

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